05 Aug Hawaii’s Soul Food: poké
Big, Chilled ruby cubes of tuna, drizzled with a sheen of soy sauce and sesame oil, and flecked with green onions and shards of macadamia nuts: Such are the pleasures of poke. Considered Hawaii’s soul food, poke (which means “piece” in native Hawaiian) was originally made by fishermen who snacked on the cutoffs of their catches after seasoning them with salt, seaweed, and kukui — an island nut so fatty it can burn like a candle. But like the islands themselves, poke is astonishingly diverse, incorporating flavors from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and even the mainland U.S.
Maybe because it’s so delicious and so infinitely variable, poke is having a moment — with poke restaurants, poke bars, and poke trucks blanketing the West Coast and quickly heading east. But you don’t have to wait for one to open near you. Poke is almost too easy to prepare. This classic tuna-shoyu version, courtesy of esteemed Honolulu chef Chris Kajioka, can get you started. But don’t be shy about changing things up and playing with different seafood — salmon works well — and seasonings. Just be sure to use the freshest fish possible: Buy it from a good, busy fish counter and give it a sniff — if it smells clean and sweet, you’re good to go.